What will Coastal Cities Look Like if We Don’t Curtail Greenhouse Gas Emissions? Take a Look:

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then the collection of photos Climate Central — a nonprofit news organization — touched-up to show what sea level rise flooding will do to coastal cities around the world if we don’t cut back on greenhouse gas emissions should leave you downright speechless.

The environmental group recently published before and after photos of the sea level rise flooding 184 sites from Dhaka Bangladesh to Charleston, South Carolina and everywhere in between will experience at varying levels of global warming from the preferred target of 1.5 degrees centigrade all the way up to 4 degrees centigrade. The collection is published under the title “Picturing Our Future” and tagged “Climate and energy choices this decade will influence how high sea levels rise for hundreds of years. Which future will we choose?”

Researchers used new global elevation data from a study titled “Unprecedented threats to cities from multi-century sea level rise” published on the IOPScience website to generate the photos. The study itself states “a portion of human-caused carbon dioxide emissions will stay in the atmosphere for hundreds of years, raising temperatures and sea levels globally.” They go on to explain that globally, we’re falling short of what needs to be done to avoid the worst case sea level rise flooding scenario. “Most nations’ emissions-reduction policies and actions do not seem to reflect this long-term threat,” they wrote, ” as collectively they point toward widespread permanent inundation of many developed areas.”

It’s critically important to note here that sea level rise isn’t a future threat, it’s happening now in coastal cities across the U.S. and around the world. In the US, federal, state and local government entities are already investing billions of dollars in funds to raise seawalls, roads, water and sewer systems, and other critical infrastructure. And these efforts are seen as merely a tiny fraction of what will actually be needed to fend off floodwaters in the years and decades to come. Many real estate owners in coastal areas that are experiencing flooding are already having to pay out of pocket to raise seawalls and elevate their houses. In areas that can’t be saved, some states are offering buy-outs to property owners.

The bottom line is today and tomorrow we will be dealing with sea level rise flooding. The decisions we make today will have short-term and long-term implications. Educating yourself on sea level rise flooding has never been more important.

Moon Wobble will Increase Sea Level Rise Flooding in the 2030s

Sea level rise and sea level rise flooding have been gradually increasing for decades, but scientists are predicting a noticeable jump in the next decade. Why? A predictable wobble in the moon’s orbit will place Earth’s tide-driving companion closer to the planet from 2030 to 2040. A closer moon means higher high tides and lower low tides.

When you combine the moon’s stronger gravitational pull on the oceans with climate change-driven sea level rise, we can expect to see even more sea level rise flooding than we’re now witnessing in coastal communities. In fact, experts are predicting the moon wobble will result in sea level rise flooding conditions that were not expected until the end of this century. For example, scientists estimate San Francisco will experience five times more high-tide flood days in the next decade than it does now.

To arrive at their disturbing conclusion, NASA researchers reviewed data from tide gauges located in coastal communities in every state and territory but Alaska, which, due to its position on the globe, is not expected to face higher tides due to the moon wobble. The research was published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

Buyers and owners of real estate currently experiencing sea level rise flooding or located in communities that flood need to add the wobble into their long-term property ownership decisions. Flooding is already forcing the government and property owners to spend billions of dollars to fend off floodwaters and protect critical infrastructure. A sudden leap will only worsen property damage and result in higher outlays for maintenance, taxes and insurance.

The Surfside Florida Tragedy Will Change How People Handle Coastal Real Estate

As a long-time resident of South Florida, this is the most difficult post I’ve had to write for SeaLevelRiseRealEstate.com. My condolences to the family and friends of those who lost their lives in the tragic Surfside, Florida, high-rise building collapse. May they find comfort in the memories of their days together.

Although the investigation into the disaster has barely begun, structural engineers analyzing potential causes have suggested that rainwater and maybe even sea level rise-driven, salty ocean floodwater that pooled on a flat pool deck may have damaged the building’s concrete and steel reinforcement structure to the point that the pool deck collapsed into the garage and brought the floors above with it. For a few years, structural engineers had warned the condo board that the water damage needed to be fixed immediately. The condo board says that it did its best to convince the residents that they needed to fund the repairs, but it was a slow process. Investigators will have to sort out the details.

Regardless of the ultimate cause of the catastrophe, the lessons are clear for buyers and owners of real estate in coastal communities. They need to practice due diligence when evaluating coastal properties.

When buyers are purchasing condos, townhouses or homes in seaside communities, they need to have the structures fully evaluated by licensed and experienced home inspectors. When they receive the inspection report, they need to read it in detail and ask the inspectors to explain any deficiencies and whether it’s still worth purchasing the subject property.

In cases that involve homeowner’s associations or condo boards, buyers need to treat the interview process as not only an opportunity for the board to become familiar with them but as an opportunity for them to find out if the board is managing the property well. To do this, buyers need to get a copy of financial records and annual reports and actually read them to see if the association is properly funded or burdened with debt and holding enough reserves to cover the cost of anticipated maintenance. They also need to find out if the property is properly maintained, if there are any ongoing maintenance issues, and if there are any anticipated maintenance projects — and how much each resident will have to pay toward the projects. Special assessments can cost each owner tens of thousands of dollars. Another crucial part of this due diligence process is asking the board for a copy of recent property inspections, whether they were conducted by a private firm or city department.

Both salt-water infused rain and sea level rise flooding can damage structures. Buyers need to find out in writing from sellers or the board whether or not the property is subject to sea level rise flooding now or will be in the near future. They also need to know what, if anything, is being done to control the problem and how much it will cost.

Buyers aren’t the only ones who need to practice due diligence. Owners of coastal real estate need to be pro-active when it comes to the maintenance of what is essentially their home. They have to get involved either by becoming board members or becoming active participants — and problem solvers — in the board’s deliberations. When a structural engineer identifies a problem that needs to be addressed immediately, they need to pressure the board and other residents to get on board and get it repaired.

Owners also need to pay attention to the threat sea level rise flooding poses to a property and what the board intends to do to address it. If fellow residents aren’t interested in properly maintaining a building, it might be time to sell.

Over the years, I’ve rented condos in buildings that were well managed and some that weren’t. One condo building I lived in a block from the ocean was so poorly maintained that saltwater intruded through the stucco exterior causing so much damage practically the entire structure had to be replaced to make the building habitable. Another building I’ve lived in was so well managed that the owners fixed slight deficiencies before they caused any noticeable damage. Condo and homeowner’s association fees for some buildings might seem high on the short-term, but if the money is being used to avoid costlier problems down the road, the investment is clearly worth it.

Over the past few months, I read an article in the Charleston Post and Courier that said one of the first questions buyers in Charleston — a city that’s being impacted by flooding from sea level rise, storm surges, and heavy rain — were asking is “Does this property flood?” A real estate agent quoted in a Miami Herald article said agents in her city rarely if ever asked that question — this despite Miami being ground zero for sea level rise flooding. The Surfside tragedy will likely result in buyers being much more likely to ask questions regarding flooding and building maintenance. Condo and homeowner’s association boards and owners in their building are going to have to be much more pro-active regarding building maintenance to protect their investment and their lives.

Sea Level Rise Added Billions of Dollars to Hurricane Sandy’s Storm Surge Damage

When it comes to sea level rise, buyers, sellers, owners, and real estate agents need to be aware of both the increased occurrence of nuisance flooding — tidal floodwaters that inundate neighborhoods on sunny days — and storm surges that can strike quickly and inflict billions of dollars in damages in a very short time.

A study recently released by researchers at Climate Central, an independent organization of scientists and journalists dedicated to informing the public about climate change, demonstrated the threat sea-level-rise-fueled storm surges pose to coastal communities. The researchers gathered information about Hurricane Sandy and concluded that a few additional inches of sea level rise contributed over $8 billion dollars worth of damage to the $62.7 billion the super storm inflicted on New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

To arrive at that astonishing figure, the researchers analyzed water levels during Hurricane Sandy and compared it with an estimate of how high the water would have risen without human-caused sea level rise. Based on a conservative estimate of just over four inches of sea level rise added between 1900 and 2012, the year Hurricane Sandy struck, they estimated that sea level rise added $8.1 billion to the total tab the states had to spend repairing storm damage, including power grids and transportation networks.

The researchers noted in their analysis that economic damages may have been much higher than stated in their report. “Our estimates do not account for potential long-term economic effects, such as losses and gains in broad economic activity associated with employment and production changes across industries in the aftermath of a damaging cyclone event,” they wrote.

Climate Central’s chief scientist and CEO Benjamin Strauss, Ph.D., put the report in perspective: “Just a hands-width of sea level rise from climate change caused more than 10 percent of the damage from Sandy’s towering floodwaters. The implications are enormous. For any lesser ocean flood, the percentage must be higher.”

Clearly buyers, sellers, owners, and real estate agents can’t afford to ignore the influence ever-rising seas have on damaging storm surges when they’re evaluating coastal properties.

Florida’s State Government Does a 180 on Sea Level Rise Flooding

Just a few short years ago, the state of Florida’s official position on sea level rise was not only “no problem” but “don’t mention it”. Then Republican Gov. Rick Scott made national headlines by banning mention of climate change and its many impacts from official state discourse.

This month, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis turned the tide — so to speak — on sea level rise by signing into law a bill that created the Resilient Florida Grant Program in the Department of Environmental Protection. The program will use millions of dollars in state funding to aid local communities in their efforts to combat sea level rise flooding, which has been damaging coastal real estate and infrastructure for years. Some of the funding will be spent on new seawalls in Miami and West Palm Beach, drainage improvements in Key West, and reconstructed roadways at many locations.

In addition to the grant program, Gov. DeSantis signed a bill that requires the Department of Environmental Protection to conduct a statewide risk assessment and draft a three-year sea level rise resilience plan.

Environmentalists are generally encouraged by the state’s willingness to acknowledge and take on the challenges posed by sea level rise flooding. They would, however, like to see officials take the next step and actually tackle the root cause of sea level rise: the burning of fossil fuels that’s driving global warming.

Buyers, Sellers, Owners & Real Estate Agents Need to Know Their Community’s Plan to Fight Sea Level Rise Flooding

How a community plans to deal with sea level rise flooding can have a big impact on buyers, sellers, owners, and real estate agents.

As sea level continues to rise, coastal communities are having to make difficult decisions about how to prevent flooding. Often the plans involve building or improving seawalls, installing pump stations, and raising property and critical infrastructure, such as roads and underground pipes.

These types of projects can have a substantial impact on property owners. How? Many cities and towns are planning or actually implementing projects with hefty million and even billion dollar price tags that have the potential to cause a spike in taxes or utility fees. In addition, the projects themselves can include seawalls, pump stations and infrastructure improvements that can block views and/or involve many years of construction.

Many owners are waking up to the fact that they need to keep up-to-date on how their community plans to deal with sea level rise flooding to ensure that their property value and quality of life aren’t negatively impacted. Right now, Miami Beach, Florida, a city that’s aggressively combatting sea level rise flooding, is debating the placement of a large pump station. Many residents don’t want it in their neighborhoods for fear of how it will impact their view and ability to enjoy their community. Similar arguments are going on elsewhere, including in Miami and Charleston, SC, where residents are concerned about proposed tall seawalls blocking their views.

Current property owners aren’t the only ones who need to stay on top of a community’s sea level rise plans. Buyers, too, need to perform due diligence and find out what projects are being considered and how they will impact their property of interest. There have been cases where buyers have moved into a home only to find out that a tall seawall or pump station was about to be built nearby or that the roads out front were going to be dug up for years.

Owners who plan to sell their homes need to know not only what’s planned for their neighborhood but also whether or not their state requires them to disclose what they know to buyers. Real estate agents should keep informed not only because it’s part of their professional duty to know what’s going on in their farm area, but, because they may be held accountable by buyers if they unknowingly purchase a home that will be impacted by sea level rise infrastructure projects.

The bottom line here is that buyers, sellers, owners, and real estate agents can no longer afford to turn a blind eye to sea level rise flooding or the approaches their communities plan to implement to combat it. The stakes — property value and quality of life — are too high.

Read more about this important topic in “7 Sea Level Rise Real Estate Questions for Buyers, Sellers, Owners & Real Estate Agents”.

Kindle E-Reader Version of “7 Sea Level Rise Real Estate Questions” Now Available!

Great news! The Kindle E-reader version of “7 Sea Level Rise Real Estate Questions for Buyers, Sellers, Owners & Real Estate Agents” is now available on Amazon.com. The Kindle version joins the paperback version which was published last week.

The point of “7 Sea Level Rise Real Estate Questions for Buyers, Sellers, Owners & Real Estate Agents” is to educate all parties about this creeping catastrophe and to show them how to perform due diligence — gather information from multiple sources — BEFORE they make real estate decisions. This is critically important to buyers in coastal communities because they are purchasing homes that actually experience sea level rise flooding and they don’t know it until the water shows up at their doors; sellers are selling properties without knowing their legal obligation to disclose flooding to buyers; owners think the flooding won’t affect them until they can’t drive on and off their property because the streets are flooded; and real estate agents are selling properties that flood — usually unaware of the problem — and they could face costly lawsuits.

I spent hundred of hours researching, writing, and editing the 2021 edition and ended up with 177 pages jam-packed with facts, charts and photos. The book is beefed up with chapters that cover: what happened over the last year; the relationship between the burning of fossil fuels, global warming, and sea level rise; what happens, in detail, when sea level rise flooding strikes a community, a neighborhood and an individual property; the pros and cons of the solutions communities and property owners are using to address sea level rise flooding; and how to research whether or not a property is currently experiencing sea level rise flooding or is soon to be inundated.

When readers finish “7 Sea Level Rise Real Estate Questions for Buyers, Sellers, Owners & Real Estate Agents” they will have a comprehensive understanding of how sea level rise flooding works and why everyone involved in real estate in coastal communities needs to pay attention to it before it threatens their financial futures. The truth is: sea level rise flooding is happening now and it will worsen in the future. Check out the book today!

PS: Now that the book is published, I’ll get back to posting the latest developments regarding global warming, sea level rise flooding, and real estate. Please check back often! Thank you!

Innovative Grant Program in Miami Beach, Florida, Helps Homeowners to Combat Sea Level Rise Flooding on Their Properties

Coastal cities and towns experiencing sea level rise flooding are on the lookout for innovative programs to help homeowners to combat sea level rise flooding on their properties. The city of Miami Beach, Florida, stepped up to the plate in December by creating a program that will provide matching funds of up to $20,000 to residents who are taking steps to prevent flood damage to their yards and homes.

The new Miami Beach Resilience Fund is allocating over $666,000 for the Private Property Flooding and Sea Level Rise Adaptation Grant. In announcing the new program, Mayor Dan Gelber said, “Private property adaptation is a vital component to Miami Beach’s overall climate resilience planning.” The city has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in flood control infrastructure projects, including elevating roads, installing pumps, and making improvements to stormwater and water treatment systems.

The city envisions private property owners using the grants to elevate air conditioning systems, improving the ability of yards to absorb rainwater and floodwaters, and elevating garage floor and yards. The funds are not enough to assist homeowners in elevating their houses or raising seawalls, which will likely be necessary as the ocean is predicted to rise by two feet between now and 2060. Additional public and private funds will have to be allocated for these flood mitigation steps that could cost many billions of dollars in Florida alone.

City Commissioner Mark Samuellan said the grant program will help the entire city’s economy. “Reducing the likelihood of flood damage will help to preserve and increase home values.”

You can read more about the grant program in this Miami Herald article.

The Threat of Flooding in Coastal Communities Rises as Sea Level Rise Lifts Water Tables

When Tropical Storm Eta soaked South Florida with torrential rains in November, many property owners far inland were shocked to see streets and homes flood in their neighborhoods. Experts say that the extreme flooding was due to the enormous amount of rain that fell on land already saturated by heavy rains that fell in October. They also said that the nearly 75-year-old canal system built to drain what had for been Everglades swamplands was unable to cope with the volume of water.

Sea level rise was part of the problem, too. The drainage canals rely on gravity to transport water from land to sea. As sea levels rise, the difference in height between water on and under the land and the ocean is becoming narrower. As a result, floodwaters don’t flow as quickly downslope to the sea, and, during extremely high tides, sea water actually tries to rush inland through the canals.

Another reality of the canal system is that if the region is experiencing higher than normal “king tides” during a storm, authorities who oversee the drainage system have to close gates to keep seawater from rushing up the canals. During heavy downpours, floodwaters can get caught behind the gates and, with no place to go, they accumulate and flood the land.

Sea level rise poses another less obvious threat that’s right under our feet. As the sea rises, water pressure causes it to migrate inland underground through porous rock and/or soil. The pressure from the salt water, which is heavier than fresh water, forces the fresh water upward, effectively raising the water table.

This can have several negative effects. When the water table rises, it saturates the land. When it rains, the water that falls cannot be absorbed by the soil and flooding results. Another negative effect is that the groundwater itself can rise up to the surface and create flooding.

An even nastier effect of rising water tables is that floodwaters can, as was experienced in South Florida, flow into the wastewater treatment system through manhole covers and broken pipes greatly increasing the flow to wastewater treatment facilities. This influx of water can cause the facilities to lose efficiency or fail all-together. The higher water tables can also cause on-site septic systems to fail. Both problems can result in the release of stinky, and potentially infectious sewage into floodwaters and onto the land.

The flooding Eta brought to South Florida isn’t unique to the region, and it illustrates a problem that many coastal communities and real estate owners are coping with now or will confront soon as seas continue to rise.

Many coastal communities from Florida to Oahu are racing to cope with the problem of sea level rise-induced rises in water tables. A superb article by Grace Mitchell Tada titled “The Rising Tide Underfoot” recently published in Hakai Magazine discusses in detail how rising seas are threatening Oahu, Hawaii. As Dolan Eversole, a management coordinator with the University of Hawaii Sea Grant College Program, told the reporter: “Sea level rise does not look like the ocean coming at us. It looks like the groundwater coming up.”

In South Florida, seawater is migrating inland through porous limestone. In Oahu, it moves through basalt rock. The end result is the same. According to the article, higher water tables are wreaking havoc, flooding residential neighborhoods and commercial and industrial areas. It’s also threatening critical infrastructure, such as roads, pipes that carry fresh water, wastewater, and gas, and underground wires that carry electricity and information.

As the groundwater rises, it also has the potential to release and spread toxic substances, such as oil and chemicals, deposited in the soil, which could lead to environmental catastrophe.

As sea levels continue to rise, groundwater issues will pose an even greater threat to at-risk communities.

Owners and buyers of residential and commercial real estate in coastal areas can’t ignore the threat posed by sea level rise-heightened water tables. The flooding can not only damage their property, it can make driving and communicating difficult, it can cause a spike in maintenance costs and in tax and insurance rates, it can discourage buyers from entering the market, which will drive down prices, it can discourage tourism and other business activity, and it could ultimately lead to lenders and insurers pulling out of the local market altogether, which would be the death knell for a healthy real estate economy.

Unfortunately, there is no easy way to combat rising water tables. For example, if you construct sea walls or natural berms, the seawater can easily migrate under and behind them through the porous rock and soil. With this in mind, owners and buyers of real estate in areas at-risk of rising water tables, need to perform due diligence and determine the level of the threat — has it happened in the past, is it happening in the present, and/or how far in the future will it happen. This information is critical when you decide if you can handle the risk and whether it’s worth taking on to begin with.

Tropical Storm Eta Gives South Florida Homeowners a Wake Up Call: Climate Change and Sea Level Rise Flooding are for Real

Tropical Storm Eta made landfall in the mid-Florida Keys, but it left a lasting impression on homeowners 90 miles to the north in South Florida. Many who owned real estate inland away from the coastline in what they thought were high and dry neighborhoods in Palm Beach County, Broward County, and Miami-Dade County woke up on Monday, November 9, to flooded homes, streets and businesses. Climate experts are already saying the devastation is a result of a dangerous confluence of soils already saturated by repeated rain events in October, a tropical storm with heavy rains super-charged by climate change, and a drainage system based on gravity that’s operating less efficiently due to sea level rise.

Bryan Norcross, a hurricane specialist at Local 10 in Miami, said the region has experienced this type of flooding before, just not in recent years. “I’ve been dealing with hurricanes since the 1980s and that’s evolved into discussing how climate and hurricanes fit together,” he said in an article posted on the station’s website. “The fact that sea level is rising and rising a little more than just a half an inch, an inch at a time, that makes our drainage system work more poorly.” In other words, when there’s less difference between the elevation of water pooling on land and water in the drainage canal system and ocean level, the harder it is for the system to move water off the land and into the ocean.

In an opinion piece titled “Historic Eta flooding in Florida areas thought to be drier proves we’re all vulnerable,” Miami Herald columnist Fabiola Santiago described what it was like living in a neighborhood that flooded. She said the experience at her home in Miami Lakes, an inland community she thought was not vulnerable to flooding, was like living on an island. Even if a resident’s house and street weren’t flooded, they were still impacted by the flooding because they couldn’t travel far before they encountered a flooded street.

“If your street didn’t flood,” she wrote, “you still couldn’t get out of your neighborhood because other thoroughfares did flood. Streets were dangerously deeper than they seemed at first.” She also worried that she would lose power and/or internet service due to the flooding.

Santiago’s final paragraphs are a cautionary tale for all who are considering purchasing real estate in coastal areas vulnerable to or now experiencing sea level rise flooding: “Global warming is real folks, not just a concept put out there that only concerns the scientists. Eta’s rains are here to show us just how up close and personal climate change can get in all of South Florida.”

Touring storm damage in my own city in southern Palm Beach County, I saw many streets that normally experience sea level rise flooding, especially in the fall “king tide” months, flooded to a higher level than I’d ever witnessed. Streets that residents needed to travel to get from their homes were bisected by floodwaters rendering them useless. This is a major frustration to many property owners in my area. Experts say property values in areas that experience sea level rise flooding are already appreciating at a slower rate than properties that don’t.

Tropical Storm Eta’s nasty surprise is a reminder to all property owners and buyers that they need to perform due diligence and know the risk of flooding to homes and businesses so they can make an informed decision regarding real estate ownership. It’s also a reminder that they can’t just focus on a given property or neighborhood, flooding in the wider community and region can also impact their ability to get around town and the costs of maintenance, insurance, and taxes, as communities are forced to invest ever more in efforts to prevent flooding events.